Last week I reviewed a bread-and-butter, standard repertoire concert from the Orchestra of the Swan; on Friday this polished, adept ensemble turned its attention to music that could not be more up-to-the-minute, with two world premieres and another major work from the end of the 20th century.
First up was ‘Skyspace’ by Deborah Pritchard, inspired by the installations of artist James Turrell, shiftingly luminous as unisons between trumpet and strings expand outwards into aural perspectives, its colours and textures well-imagined from this restricted palette. The ending came too soon.
The other premiere was John McCabe’s ‘Trumpet Concerto, La Primavera’, jazzily lyrical (the slow movement has the soloist adopting Miles Davis’s flugelhorn), crystally-clear brittle, and featuring extensive duetting between soloist and bongo-rich percussion (Jan Bradley, un-named in the programme, but what a star he is). There is a powerful unison between soloist and orchestra as the fabulous ending to this memorable, life-enhancing piece approaches.
Between the premieres came the elder statesman, all of 20 years old. Robert Saxton’s ‘Psalm -- A Song of Ascents’ draws its inspiration from biblical references to the trumpet in its various guises, so we certainly get clear-cut fanfaring landmarks amid the work’s tricksy metres. The piece is both gestural and contemplative, often drivingly energetic with coruscating outbursts, but often suffused with bell-coloured magic.
Kenneth Woods was the authoritative conductor, communicating warmly with the audience.